Children can thrive when their communities are strong. When communities are equipped with healthy foundations (like quality affordable housing, good schools, and living-wage jobs), they serve as nurturing environments in which kids can grow up strong and families can prosper. Policies that strengthen these building blocks – and invest in the many unique, valuable assets communities already have – are a key strategy to reducing poverty and improving economic well-being among children across Washington state.
As state lawmakers craft their budget proposals for release in the coming days, they should not miss the opportunity to invest in the Communities of Concern Commission. Our latest KIDS COUNT in Washington brief highlights the Communities of Concern Commission’s work to create more equitable access to state resources so that communities of color can have what they need to build and strengthen key foundations. The commission is an initiative that aims to grow financial capital assets in communities of color across Washington state. Their work supports historically under-resourced communities to develop affordable housing, build and expand child care centers, health care clinics, and community and cultural centers, and otherwise improve the building blocks that children and families need to thrive. Importantly, the commission’s goal is not only to increase the amount of resources dedicated to economic development in communities of color across the state, but also to transform the ways in which those resources are allocated and managed. The commission is committed to shifting decision-making power so that communities themselves can identify their needs and forward their own solutions.
To move the needle for kids of color, state policymakers must think beyond individual children and families and address the ways in which entire communities have been barred from equal opportunity and access to resources.
This is a transformative strategy for kids and families of color, who, because of structural and institutional racism, face disproportionate poverty and economic insecurity. A legacy of racist policies continues to undermine foundational assets in Washington’s communities of color. For example, redlining, racially restrictive covenants, and other discriminatory housing policies have devalued predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods, while segregation and inequitable funding hamstring majority people of color schools and undercut access to college for students of color. The Communities of Concern Commission model – investing directly in communities that have historically been targeted for disinvestment – is a way to begin to remove the barriers that stand in the way of people of color’s ability to build capital and achieve economic security.
To move the needle for kids of color, state policymakers must think beyond individual children and families and address the ways in which entire communities have been barred from equal opportunity and access to resources. State lawmakers should not miss the chance to invest in the Communities of Concern Commission to help kids in our state grow up surrounded by a network of support, within reach of the resources they need to thrive.
The KIDS COUNT in Washington brief calls on lawmakers to invest in our state’s kids by:
- Fully funding the Communities of Concern Commission by investing $1 million in the state operating budget and $1 million in the capital budget so the Commission can help community-based organizations complete vital community economic development projects.
- Providing statewide Public Development Authority status to the Communities of Concern Commission to facilitate ongoing state investment to a dedicated fund to accelerate the creation of affordable housing and other essential facilities in communities of color.
- Securing an ongoing source of revenue for the Communities of Concern Commission to build needed infrastructure and capital assets not subject to annual budget allocation.
Read the full KIDS COUNT brief, “Investing in assets to build economic security for kids of color.”
KIDS COUNT in Washington is a partnership of the Children’s Alliance and the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, pursuing measurable improvements in child outcomes through equitable public policy measures. The two organizations offer policymakers and the public the knowledge they need to remove the barriers kids face to brighter, freer, more equal futures. For more information, visit www.kidscountwa.org.